Saturday, May 30, 2009

PTSD Education: Wrapping Up How We Tell The Outside World

Whoa – another month just flew by in the BRIDGE THE GAP healing workshop. We covered many aspects about how to educate friends, family, partners and colleagues about PTSD, including:

Communicating with the Outside World
Deciding Which Family Member to Talk To
7 Tips For Talking about PTSD
Navigating Negative Reactions
8 Dos & Don'ts For Breaking PTSD News
The Importance of Attitude
Educating Partners
Dealing with PTSD at Work

Of course, there’s no way to 100% predict the response of someone else. For the people we bring into our confidence this is going to be A Big Idea. It’s going to cause them to reconceptualize who we are – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Until the day I told my family what was going on I’d always felt like the bitch in the bunch; the brat; the ‘difficult’ daughter; the ‘temperamental’ artist. Not because they labeled my family labeled me that way, but because I did. With the naming of my condition though, I felt a little freer to be me and also, that that me was justified. I was struggling, dammit! I wasn’t just awful; I was on a path.

When I methodically and with knowledge presented the facts and how my past and present wove together I showed my family (and later some select friends) what the PTSD problem was while still respecting myself and without making apologies for any of it. My attitude was matter-of-fact. And, OK, so I had family and friends who love me and that made it easier because I expected a baseline of understanding, but the bottomline is this: We have to find an even keel of expectations, not putting all of our hopes for recovery in this one conversation, and not assuming we will be decimated by it either.

If I had behaved as if I was less than everyone else who didn't have PTSD, the reactions may have have been different than the rallying around with positive focus and a can-do plan for my recovery. If I had worried about being ridiculed or spoken to unkindly I might never have attempted to communicate. In the end, the act of educating others is as much for as it is for them. We need to practice reaching out. We need to find a support system. We need to take responsibility for who we are and own it. If we don’t find understanding in one place we have to look for it in another face.

The goal in educating others is for people to understand us and offer a support system we can rely on while we do the work to heal. But in order for others to give back to us what we need, we must give them a roadmap for navigating the topic the right way. This begins with our own approach to it. We must understand and know the facts about PTSD, and then speak about it with an attitude of honoring ourselves. We are the experts in our experience and recovery. As much as we don't feel like we are, we must develop that perspective so that friends, family and colleagues can hear what we have to say and follow our lead in how to perceive it.

(Photo: J&G)